December 20, 2012

Sustainable Transport Award Finalist: Bremen, Germany

98. bremen-town-hall-rathaus

The City of Bremen is well known for its ambitious strategies on transport and quality of life in the city. Already, about 60% of all trips in Bremen are done by the sustainable modes of walking, cycling and collective transport, and this number is on the rise. Bremen, a traditional harbor city in the North of Germany with an urban population of 550,000, serves as a showcase of synergies between the strategic areas of sustainable transport. Bremen has accomplished a great deal in 2012 on a small-city budget.

Leadership in Car Sharing

Many cities have reached a saturation point in the number of cars. Innovative solutions are required to combine a high level of mobility for all with the requirements for good urban environmental quality. It is a common problem in densely built urban areas – where public space is at a premium – that any measure of greening, widening sidewalks for pedestrians etc. is confronted with possible trade-off of the limited space available for parking cars.

The long-term strategy of Bremen goes beyond a pure modal shift in journeys. The concept of a new mobility culture adds the alternative to car-ownership.  Bremen’s Car-Sharing Action Plan (from 2009), intends to quadruple the number of car-sharers by 2020 (from 2008) – achieving 20,000 active users and replacing 6,000 private cars. With new buildings regulations for 2012, developers are encouraged to integrate car-sharing stations into new developments (reducing the provision of car-parking).

Bremen is a showcase as to how the innovative service of car-sharing is offering a more intelligent solution to urban transport problems than building (expensive) underground parking. The urban environment wins if fewer cars are required to maintain a high level of personal mobility. The variety of car-sharing cars available allows for a choice of the most appropriate car for each trip, which usually leads to a downsizing of vehicles used – a step to more energy efficiency – and the pay-as-you-drive principle of car-sharing supports a change in mobility patterns towards more cycling and public transport locally, with rail serving long-distance trips. Because of its positive impacts on both urban transport and on the quality of the urban environment, car-sharing has become a crucial part of urban transport strategies in Bremen. This is managed by the (private) operator Cambio, as well the City of Bremen and the public transport operator.

One of Bremen’s many car-sharing stations, surrounded by bike parking.
One of Bremen’s many car-sharing stations, surrounded by bike parking.


Leadership in Non-Motorized Transport

Non-motorized travel accounts today for about 45% of all trips of the Bremen citizens. The current share of cycling, 25%, shall be increased to more than 30% by 2020. The promotion of cycling includes ‘cycle streets’ with priority for cyclists – a kind of cycle highway – cycling in counter flow direction in most one-way streets (as safe shortcuts for cycling), a network of ‘green’ cycle connections, cycle parking with good bicycle racks and many promotional activities.

Walking is another important field. Good connections are very important – avoiding unnecessary deviations for pedestrians. The speed reduction of an inner-city highway and the installation of level crossings with traffic lights for pedestrians (avoiding steep ramps of old pedestrian bridges) was a politically spectacular re-setting of priorities.

Preservation of Public Space

Through the promotion and support of Car-Sharing, the number of parked cars in the neighborhoods shall be reduced by reclaiming street space for better purposes than car-parking. This improves also the conditions for walking and cycling (e.g. through more bike-racks). By 2020, Car-Sharing shall lead to replacing about 6,000 private cars. The inner city of Bremen is pedestrianized, as well the riverbanks (which served a long time widely as parking zone) are a zone for walking and cycling. Restaurants and recreational options in these areas attract many citizens and make these areas a livable space.

An entertaining video about sustainable mobility in Bremen, including details of their successful car sharing program starting at 8:30:


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